Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Your Eyes Will Be Opened

"Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)

Adam's job assignment contained only TWO aspects: tend and guard the Garden. Isn't it interesting that Adam was not burdened down with volumes of rules and regulations on how to do his job?

Actually, only ONE rule existed: do not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It carried a stiff penalty of sure death. This forbidden tree was in the middle of the garden--not protected by an imposing fence or even a "No Trespassing" sign.

Adam and Eve could choose from countless varieties of fare from the abundant vegetation. Although God knew ahead of time what Adam had done each day, He delighted in stepping into time and walking with His children in the cool of the day, rejoicing at their progress and patiently listening to their discoveries. It was the joy of loving and being loved.

As the couple grew in knowledge and wisdom, they were to learn directly from the Creator about the intricate, spiritual dynamics outside their ever-expanding material world. (Adam had been told to protect the Garden; therefore, he knew an enemy was on the ground somewhere.)

The economy of the Garden ran on relational stewarding. Adam and Eve were co-trustees of creation--accountable to each other and to God. The moment the outsider spoke, Eve should have turned to Adam and told him. Adam, in turn, should have refused further engagements until God could be consulted. After all, the Creator of all things would know the true nature of this strange creature and exactly what it wanted.

Eve, however, fell under the charm of being singled out. Flattered by the attention and isolated by her pride, she unwittingly fell under seduction. Satan systematically wore Eve down by:

1. emphasizing the prohibition, not the provision
2. reducing God's command to a question
3. casting doubt upon God's sincerity
4. defaming His motives
5. denying the truth of the consequences

Most likely, the enemy has never has spoken to you directly, but he does use other charming things and people to get you hooked into engaging him. Look again at his methods above. In hindsight, does this M.O. look familiar?

In essence, satan asked Eve:
Do you want God to teach you what He knows, or do you want to learn it yourself?
Why do you think God wants you to have to keep coming to Him?
Could it be He desires to keep you under His thumb?
If He really loves you, why is He holding something this important and pleasurable from you?
Have you ever wondered if eating from the tree will make you just like Him, and then you won't need God anymore?
Did He say you'd die? Why, I think you'd become divine!

It worked. Genesis 3:6 records the downfall:
1. Eve "saw that the tree was good for good" (Lust of the Flesh)
2. That it was "pleasant to the eyes" (Lust of the Eyes)
3. And a tree desirable to “make one wise” (Pride of Life)

The book of James tells us the difference between godly and earthly wisdom:

From above--pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, without hypocrisy
From below--inspired by the devil; full of bitterness and envy that leads to self-seeking that produces confusion

Envy occurs when a person lacks another's (perceived) superior quality, achievement, or possession; and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.  Regardless of how well the devil spins it for you philosophically, when you want to be the captain of your soul and the master of your fate, the bottom line is--you envy God.

If we look back at Genesis 2:15, when God said, "You shall surely die", the literal Hebrews is "in dying, you shall die."

It would take hundreds of years for what Adam and Eve set into motion to steal their physical breath, but their spiritual death was immediate. How did we know? To be spiritually alive in this realm, a man or woman must be connected to God, who Himself is a Spirit, and the giver of all life (John 4:24). To be dead spiritually indicates a person is relationally, intimately cut off from God. Look at the symptoms:

After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve notice they were naked for the first time. A new emotion entered the garden--shame. They desperately make fig leaves (from the forbidden tree) to cover the most intimate part of themselves from each other. Next, they hid from God for the first time, shrinking from the One they normally welcomed into the Garden for intimate fellowship. Why? Shame was followed by a second emotion: fear.

"I was afraid,"
said Adam.

Finally, blame shifting manifested:

The man said, "The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate." (Genesis 3:12-13)

Eating the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil gave Adam and Eve the shortcut they were looking for--the power to decide what was good and bad for themselves, but at a tremendous cost.

Physical life would go on, but under harsh conditions. Creation would no longer obey Adam because he disobeyed the Creator.

The earth no longer would acknowledge Adam as a representative of the Godhead. As a result, it was not obligated to respond to his efforts to subdue and take dominion over it. Cut off from the divine (the spiritual), man had to rely solely on his five senses to help him discern, divide, and decide.

The first humans' sons and daughters have come into this world ever since with the same amputation. We arrive as spiritual cripples, despite our intellectual capacities and talents. Our void shows. We don't appreciate the liberties we DO have as agents of free will; we focus on what our Creator prohibits and begin to question His motives. We listen to "new" voices that feed our doubts and fuel our pride.

Like Eve, we legalistically add to God's restrictions to convince ourselves of how enslaving they are. (She added, "We may not touch it, lest we die")

Like Eve, we diminish the consequences in our mind by removing "surely" from before the word "die". (Genesis 3:2)

We may still be breathing after seizing the tree, but we're not well. Society reels with one problem after another that can be traced back to the day we became fig weavers.

As a whole, we are people bent on self-preservation and hiding our true selves. When caught red-handed, we quickly pass the blame. We are steeped in fear. We don't know what it's like to live shame-free, nor without the secret delight in shaming others.

When Adam and Eve finally faced God, He would not, could not wink at their sin. He didn't grant them a "do over", much as we might to a child who lands outside the lines in a game of hopscotch.

God is holy (perfect). He is just. He is love and mercy...far beyond anything mankind has been able to fathom or experience. His attributes cannot be separated, nor can one quality be emphasized to the exclusion of the others without distorting the real character of God.

While allowing the curse to stand, God nevertheless slaughtered animals in the Garden--another first--using their innocent blood to temporarily atone (cleanse) for man's rebellion. He then made each of them clothes from the skins of those animals, which Adam and Eve wore out of the garden. The animal skins were evidence that a sacrifice had been made on their behalf.

God also promised Eve that her future Seed (another representative from God) would face the accuser again (Genesis 3:15). Adam II would be wounded by satan, but would undo the curse and crush demonic authority once and for all.

It happened--just as God promised and just as He planned.

God, the Son assumed human flesh and became Adam II to make final atonement for what happened in the Garden. Being born of a human woman, he was fully human yet fully divine. His power was never diminished-- only restrained for redemption's purpose, which was to suffer and die in our place.

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God someting to be used to His own advantage;
Rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." (Philippains 2: 5-7)

He deliberately limited His humanity in order to know man's hunger, thirst, need for sleep, tiredness, and emotions. God, the Son chose to cloak His divinity in order to learn language and social skills as a child--even carpentry--thereby authentically experiencing and sanctifying every stage of life.

"I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does..."
John 5:19-20

Given the earthly name Jesus, Christ lived a life totally dependent upon God, the Father...bypassing the temptation to partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in His humanity.

Satan wanted this Messiah to believe that the Cross was not necessary. Plotting what he thought was another easy ruse, the veteran tempter told Jesus that all he had to do was bow down in allegiance to him; then, all the wealth and power of earthly kingdoms that had been previously forfeited by the first Adam would be returned--no pain, no suffering, no loss of reputation or life.

Jesus wasn't interested. To Him, the stakes were higher: human souls.

Adam and Eve would have eventually possessed the knowledge of the universe; but they chose to seek it divorced from intimacy with God and each other. God only works relationally. This is a foundational truth we learn by looking into the profound intimacy, love, and outworkings within the Trinity.

What Adam and Eve didn't understand (and neither do most of their descendants today) is that no one really becomes his or her own god; It's just a tragic change of allegiance under the pretense of autonomy. That's another reason God couldn't say, "All right, kids; since this is your first sin, it doesn't count."

Adam and Eve had switched allegiance from God to the fallen prince of rebellion. Thinking they were free unto themselves, they were slaves of the devil and bound to his ways. They were eternally cut off from God's goodness and grace. Forgiveness was not enough. They needed a formidable deliverance!

Actually, there was a "do over", but not by sinful Adam and Eve:  It was accomplished by Christ--the final Adam. If you receive what He has done for you by faith, God will credit this finished work to your account. You will be legally transferred out of the imprisoning inadequacy of Adam and into the liberating sufficiency of Christ.

So during this season of Lent, God is calling to the fearful in hiding. He is walking once again into the Garden you soiled by sin and draped in shame. He’s not out to destroy you!

He wants to know if you're interested in making an exchange: your fig leaves for His Son.

"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh..."
(Romans 13:14)

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